God was in the House: Nick Cave Gig Review

Gig Review: Nick Cave
The Plenary, Melbourne
Wednesday 17th December 2014

As a self-confessed music aficionado, I have an assortment of lists relating to live shows in my little blues book… Seen them; Seen and want to see again; Wouldn’t miss them if they ever got their asses over to Australia; Saw them when drunk and can’t recall the show; and the list goes on.  Up until last week, one artist who has long been high on my “Really ought to have seen them by now” list has been Nick Cave. If the passionate reminiscing of my better half (who has seen Mr Cave in concert not just once, but four times) were anything to go by, then my live list was sporting at least one major gaping hole. He was right…..

Nick Cave is undoubtedly the master of lyrical storytelling… a veritable lovechild of the Brothers Grimm and Leonard Cohen.  His music has the ability to  seduce your senses, holding you in a gentle embrace for the briefest of moments, then without warning, entwining your heart and squeezing tight, leaving you gasping for breath. Such is the style of this legendary Australian musician. He has an imposing presence and chameleonic voice that shifts from a gentle whisper to a thundering boom faster than you can utter “Mr Motherfucker, you know who I am!” (Stagger Lee… an obvious omission in the set list that evening…)

As a venue, the fully-seated floor-plan of The Plenary seemed an appropriate choice at the time of ticket purchase, and the heavy velvet drapes, firefly lighting and spots that cast Nick’s ominous shadow across the walls as he strode across the stage certainly added to the ambiance of the set. However, I was quickly left wishing that I could be closer to the action- down the front standing amongst those life-time fans, hoping to inhale a little more of the smoldering intensity exuding from the stage.

Cave’s lyrical subject matter is heavily laden with a heady mix of  stark social commentary, sweetly poetic romanticism and enough biblical references that a random passerby could be forgiven for thinking they had wandered in on a sermon delivered by Vincent Vega. His set list included a good portion of my favourites- a deliciously dark rendition of Red Right Hand, an unplugged and thoroughly mesmerizing version of The Ship Song, and of course, the song that never fails to make the tears flow, Into My Arms.

Ultimately, it was more than just another check mark in my book. It was evident on the faces of those leaving the venue that many had already known what to expect and had not been let down. Others such as myself now sported dazed, dreamy smiles of the recently enlightened. Even the half-hour of carpark gridlock upon leaving failed to dampen the spirits that had been raised oh-so high in the preceding hours.

Nick Cave at the Plenary

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